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History of Romania
The Kingdom of Dacia flourished in the territory that is now Romania from the first century B.C. to the first century A.D. By 106 A.D. Dacia was conquered by the Roman armies and integrated into the Roman Empire. Roman colonists joined the Thracian-Greek inhabitants and Rome developed the region, building roads and bridges. Latin, the language of the Romans served as the linguistic base for modern Romanian. Under barbarian pressure, the Roman legions retreated from Dacia (modern Romania) in 271-275. After Rome lost control of the area, the Daco-Roman people were subjected to successive invasions by the Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Magyars. Through intermarriage and assimilation, the inhabitants of Romania developed into a distinct ethnic group, known as the Vlachs, a name designating Latin-speakers of the Balkan Peninsula.
The first of the Romanian principalities, Wallachia (Land of the Vlachs), was formed in 1330 as part of the kingdom of Hungary; and the second, Moldavia, was founded in 1350. But in 1396 Wallachia, and in 1512 Moldavia, became vassal states of the Ottoman Empire. The Duchy of Transylvania became an autonomous principality of Hungary in 1540 but came under Turkish control in 1541. In 1551 the Banat also fell under Ottoman rule. Although these principalities paid annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan, Transylvania, Moldavia and Wallachia retained their autonomous status under Turkish sovereignty
The Austro-Hungarians drove the Turks from Transylvania in 1606, from the Banat in 1701, and from the Bukovina area of Moldavia in 1775. Hungarian and German Catholic and Protestant church records began to be kept after that in those areas. In Wallachia and Moldavia Turkish influence also began to decline as Russia asserted influence there beginning in 1774. During the Russian occupation of 1806, records of births, marriages and deaths began to be kept. By 1812 Russia gained control of Bessarabia (northeastern Moldavia), and by 1829 the Turkish forces had completely withdrawn from all of the area now in Romania.
Romanian nationalism began to rise in the mid-1800s. Insurrections arose in Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania but were suppressed by the Ottomans and the Russians. Following the Crimean War (1853-1856) Wallachia and Moldavia became independent principalities once again, and in 1861 both elected a single prince to rule them, creating the state of Romania with its capital at Bucharest. Romania was recognized as an independent state in 1878 at the peace conference that followed the Russo-Turkish War. This same treaty also awarded the coastal area of Dobruja to Romania. Romania was raised to the rank of a Kingdom in 1881 with a Hohenzollern monarchy.
Romania entered World War I with the Allies, but the Germans soon occupied Bucharest and most of the country. After the war and with the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Transylvania, Bukovina, part of Banat, and the Russian province of Bessarabia were added to the Kingdom of Romania, bringing it to its largest extent.
In 1923 a new constitution granted citizenship to Jewish residents. In the 1930s a fascist political movement similar to those in Germany and Italy appeared in Romania and Romania entered into an alliance with Germany. By 1941 500,000 German soldiers were occupying Romania, and the Romanian army was pitted against the Soviet Union. By 1944 Soviet troops controlled the country.
A coup led by King Michael and opposition politicians, with the support of the army, deposed the Antonescu dictatorship on August 23, 1944 (Romania’s national holiday). Thereafter, Romanian forces fought on the side of the Allies against the Germans in Transylvania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.
Occupied by the Soviets after the war, Romania’s economy and political life were coordinated with the Soviet Union, as was the rest of Eastern Europe. The Soviet occupation forces in Romania supported Communist organizers and non-Communist political leaders were purged from positions of authority. In March 1945, King Michael was forced to appoint a Communist-front government.
A peace treaty signed at Paris on February 10, 1947 confirmed the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (occupied since 1940) and ceded the largely Bulgar-populated southern part of Dobruja to Bulgaria. It also reincorporated into Romania the portion of northern Transylvania that had been granted to Hungary in 1940 under a German arbitration between Romania and Hungary.
In December 1947, Romania's king abdicated under pressure and the Romanian People’s Republic was declared. Once in power, the Communists, led by Gheorghiu-Dej, effectively subordinated Romania's national interests to those of the Soviet Union. After the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in 1965, Nicolae Ceauşescu emerged as the new Communist leader and a new constitution was adopted, changing the name of the country to the Socialist Republic of Romania.
In 1989 the Ceauşescu government was overthrown by Ion Iliescu and a new non-Communist constitution was adopted in 1991.
Although Walachia and Moldavia had Christian contact as part of the Roman Empire, centuries of subjugation by heathen tribes caused them to remain outside the influence of either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church until the 12th century when with Russia they became part of the Orthodox domain, to which they have continued to remain faithful.
Transylvania and Banat became Christianized in the 10th century by the Roman Catholic Church. Increasing numbers of Orthodox Romanians in this area led to a number of conflicts. The Protestant Reformation was fairly complete among Hungarians and Germans in Transylvania and Banat in the 16th century. The counter-reformation in the 17th century was not carried out thoroughly and a cosmopolitan mix of Calvinist Reformed, Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic and Jewish religions was common here. In 1698 under political pressure, most Orthodox Romanians had agreed to pledge their loyalty to the Roman Catholic pope in return for the maintenance of their Eastern liturgy and traditions, thus creating the Greek Catholic or Uniate Church. Since 1991, Romania has enjoyed considerably more religious freedom.